Phase 1: My research began in field epidemiology, working on malaria chemotherapy in Southeast Asia (Thailand-Burma [Myanmar] border) for the US Army (AFRIMs). I then went on to graduate school as an NCI Undergraduate Fellow at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (at University of Buffalo). I received the Saxon Graham Award for my work on the genetic susceptibility in the immune response to parasitic infections in rural areas of Brazil.
Phase 2: Upon graduation (Ph.D.) I was awarded a K01 (International Research Scientist Award, [IRSDA] from the Fogarty), which funded my research for six years and enabled me to secure a faculty position at GW with Peter Hotez's group. During this award, I developed five recombinant protein (subunit) parasitic vaccines, which included product clinical development of these vaccines. I received a tenure track position in Microbiology Immunology and Tropical Medicine in 2005 and received extensive support for vaccine development from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Phase 3: In 2012, Peter Hotez moved to Baylor College of Medicine, and I stayed behind at GW along with David Diemert to continue building the clinical development for vaccines, which has been very successful, as we have received extensive funding from the NIH, DOD (CDRMP), and Wellcome Trust for the clinic development of these vaccines.
We then developed a controlled human hookworm infection model, in which we infect healthy human volunteers with GMP produced hookworms to accelerate the speed of our vaccine testing as well as to use them as therapeutics, due to the intense immunomodulatory effects of their more or less innocuous pathogens when infected at a low dose. My lab also developed a similar model for another human helminth (Trichuris trichiura) with funding from the NIH, which has given us a contract for the cGMP production of these pathogens for use in humans.
Phase 4: Another chapter in my research life is funding for laboratory support and biobanking for next-generation HIV and Lassa fever vaccines being developed by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the Center for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI). This has led to five back-to-back phase 1 trials of HIV vaccines and one for Lassa Fever in which we have had to develop new human sampling techniques for phase 1 trials, including our development of an ultrasound-guided lymph node fine needle aspirate lymph a, as required by the unique method employed for this vaccine. We currently have two HIV vaccine trials underway and another two in the pipeline, in which my lab is the central processing lab, as well as the central biorepository for the samples. We also have funded for Lassa Fever Vaccines from CEPI.
Phase 5: In 2014, I was asked by the Chair of MITM (Doug Nixon) to assist Dr. Sylvia Silver with running the AIDS and Cancer Specimen Resource (ACSR), which has led to a significant chapter in my research biography, as began working in biobanking and biorepositories. I am not a biobanker by nature, but what interested me were the biospecimen science aspects of biobanking, in which I was given significant funding to developed biomarkers from archived materials in the ACSR. In 2019, I was made Director of the Regional Biospecimen Repository (RBR) of the ACSR, which included continued significant funding for my biospecimen science. My ties to the ACSR also enabled me to become Chair of the Laboratory Resources Committee of the AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC) where I coordinated the seven network resource laboratories that support over 30 clinical trials run by the AMC. I was then elected to the Executive Committee of the AMC. I was involved in the recently successful resubmission of the UM! For the AMC, which enabled us to get funding for five more years and included a clinical trial site at GW run with Sharad Goyal.